Last night, the Senate passed the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA), which includes the Endless Frontier Act, the bill sponsored by Senators Schumer (D-NY) and Young (R-IN) that proposed a major reorganization, and increased funding authorizations, of the National Science Foundation, among other provisions. The authorization levels for the National Science Foundation ($81 billion over five years, of which $29 billion for the new Directorate for Technology & Innovation) and the Department of Energy ($16.9 billion over five years) are unchanged from what was agreed to during the Senate Commerce Committee markup in May. Additionally, the CHIPS Act, which provides $52 billion in emergency appropriations for semiconductor R&D, also survived the amendment process. One amendment that was agreed to by the Senate, proposed by Senator Sasse (R-NE), authorized an additional $3.5 billion per year for five years to the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA); that would double DARPA’s current budget. The USICA passed on a bipartisan basis with a vote of 68 Yeas to 32 Nays.
The process now goes to the House of Representatives. We have heard that the full House Science, Space, and Technology Committee will consider their NSF for the Future Act next week, with consideration by the full House soon after. Seeing that the USICA covers several more topics than the NSF for the Future Act, it’s still unclear how conferencing the different bills will work. We will be keeping track of developments as they happen, so please check back for updates.